Car Industry

Self-driving Chevy Bolt bumps motorcycle in minor collision

Surprise, surprise -- the autonomous car was ruled not at fault.

General Motors

Autonomous-vehicle tech is still very new, and thus, extra scrutiny is given to any collision involving one. Well, there's a new crash in town, but it's not the robot's fault.

Tucked away on the California Department of Motor Vehicles' website is a collision report from Dec. 7, involving Cruise Automation's autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV and a human on a motorcycle -- a 1996 Honda S90, if you're into that sort of thing. It happened at the corner of Oak St. and Fillmore St. in San Francisco.

I'm sure Chevrolet has an extra door or two lying around.

Cruise Automation

According to the report, the self-driving Bolt was operating in autonomous mode when it went to change lanes, from the center of a three lanes to the left. Its gap had begun to shrink, so it made its way back to its original lane. At that same time, a motorcycle was lane splitting between the left and center lanes, and the bike bumped the Bolt, wobbled and went down.

The Bolt EV was traveling approximately 12 mph when the collision occurred, and Honda S90 was moving at about 17. The biker got up, walked his bike to the curb and the two parties exchanged numbers. Per Cruise policy, they called 911. The biker was eventually taken away to receive care for an alleged shoulder pain. The self-driving Bolt suffered a "long scuff" on its passenger side.

Even though lane splitting is legal in California, the police determined that the biker was at fault "for attempting to overtake and pass another vehicle on the right under conditions that did not permit that movement in safety."

"At Cruise, we test our self-driving cars in challenging and unpredictable environments precisely because by doing so we will get better, safer AV technology on the roads sooner," said a spokesperson for General Motors, which acquired Cruise in 2016, in an emailed statement. "In this case, the motorcyclist merged into our lane before it was safe to do so."

One of the primary concerns in early self-driving cars is safety. There's almost always, if not always a human behind the wheel, ready to take over in case the car's computers get flummoxed. Waymo has seen its fair share of scraps, an overwhelming majority of which were due to impatient or otherwise negligent humans in other cars. The first time Waymo was ruled at fault in an accident was early 2016, back when it was just another division of Google.

The autonomous Bolt EVs are assembled in Lake Orion, Michigan, where the standard Bolt EV is put together.

General Motors